So, You Think You’re A Thought Leader? Think Again…

Could marketers, who are trained to adopt innovative trends in digital, such as content marketing, become victims of dogma? Yes. Consider ‘Thought Leadership’, one of the key strategies that are being misused and overused. I truly cringe every time someone presents their PR or digital marketing plan with a ‘thought leader’ program component without ever asking, ‘is this truly thoughtful?’ or ‘does it add value to the discourse with our clients?’

Under the guise of creating an uber-brand of ‘The Thinker’ versus the ‘Doer’ which provides a strategic platform to express your digital brand, many companies, it seems, have taken a liking to self-anointing themselves as thought leaders. You think I am kidding? Just google the term ‘thought leader’, or check out the Twitter profiles of book authors and CEOs or some of the corporate management consultants that have their LinkedIn Profile adorned with ‘I am a Thought Leader’.

Our take? You’re not a thought leader – if you say you are. In fact, quite the opposite. You are self-aggrandizer, because any original thought that results in leadership must come from a third-party that validates your position in the digital ecosphere or community of influence. By self-describing yourself as a thought leader, you are opening yourself to be ridiculed, challenged and doubted by those who truly carry the burden of creating original, authentic voice in the community.

Why is our assertion so important to consider? Content marketing is about elevating your position to engage in a force-multiplying meaningful dialogue with audience that appreciates your strong opinions, informed or full of passion. But if you’re not doing so, you’re not a thought leader!

Not sure? Here are four clues why you might not be a thought leader.

1. Your own digital profile is full adjectives of self-puffery such as “I’m an Innovator”, “I’m a Thought Leader”, “and I’m the best at….” While it may be true, true thought leaders are just like true classical artists. They don’t self-ascribe it; the critics and followers do.

2. Your content marketing white papers and case studies consist of compilation of other people’s thoughts that are essentially curation versus original thinking.

3. Most of your Twitter and LinkedIn followers are people that like you or belong to your same industry versus the industry that your marketing is supposed to target.

4. Your content marketing is void of actual opinions that stimulate strong opposition, lacking the intensity of an ‘earth is flat’ type statement.

Aristotle, a real thought leader, in his time and beyond said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Apply that test to all of your content marketing and see whether you are closer to Aristotle or closer to Sideshow Bob (Krusty the Clown’s assistant from the Simpsons).